Illusion of the American Dream

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The Illusion of the American Dreams

In his 1931 book The Epic of America, James Truslow Adams coined the term “The American Dream.” A term that is used frequently in the English language, the American dream is the dream of prosperity and wealth, and the idea that anyone can achieve it through hard work. The idea of the American dream is very common but many believe the dream is merely an illusion. Dreiser’s Sister Carrie, Steinbeck’s The Leader of the People, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Winter Dreams all display the elusiveness of the great American dream.

James Truslow Adams wished to examine the future of America after World War 1, and the vision of the people. The American dream is essentially the vision of the post-war American people. In The Epic of America Adams defines the American dream as, “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.” As the war ended, the second industrial revolution ended as well. The United States experienced its most sufficient economic growth in history during the end of the revolution, which created newfound wealth in America. This newfound wealth led to the materialistic lifestyle that the term “conspicuous consumption” was later based on.

Conspicuous consumption, or according to the American Heritage Dictionary “the acquisition and display of expensive items to attract attention to one’s wealth or to suggest that one is wealthy,” is a prominent theme in Theodore...
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